As his high school girls cross country team prepared for the biggest meet of the season on Saturday, Beavercreek coach Howard Russ offered some advice. It might as well apply to the pack of Dayton area runners at the cross country state championships, too.
“The race is going to be the most painful race of your life so enjoy it,” Russ said. “Racing like a champion is supposed to hurt.”
»RELATED: Tuesday’s high school scoreboard
Beavercreek enters as one of the top teams in Division I along with Centerville, the defending four-time champions. Both are in the running for the team title at National Trail Raceway near Hebron. Beavers junior Taylor Ewert, undefeated this season, is a favorite for the individual title.
“We’ve already accomplished so much this season and a state title would be great,” said Ewert, who earlier this season posted a 16:57 for one of the top times all-time in Ohio. “But we’re all having fun and enjoying each other’s company. Whatever happens happens.”
Beavercreek juniors Jodie Pierce, Savannah Roark and sophomore Juliann Williams are contenders for a podium (top 20) finish as are Centerville seniors Savannah Lowe, Kerri Walsh and sophomore Emma Bucher.
Springboro junior Zoe Chappelle and Troy’s trio of senior Olivia Tyre, sophomore Dinah Gigandet and freshman Emma Kennett also qualfied for the D-I championships.
Beavercreek and Centerville have seen each other often as members of the Greater Western Ohio Conference. In head-to-head varsity matchups the Beavers have won GWOC and regional titles. But the Elks still have something Beavercreek doesn’t.
“I have so much respect for (Centerville coach Dave Dobson) and the program he has built,” Russ said. “The advantage the Elks have is that they know what it takes to win the state meet and we don’t yet.”
Among other state meet highlights:
• Miamisburg’s boys make their first state appearance in school history two weeks after winning their first district title since 1969.
At last Saturday’s regional meet, coach Jeremy Wysocki – sitting alone about 400 meters from the finish line – watched the live results update on his phone. The top five teams qualified for state and three spots went fast, adding to Wysocki’s stress level.
The Vikings finished fourth and were led by senior Parker Hines, who got tangled in a pack and fell down in the first mile. But Hines bounced up and surged to the front to finish 13th overall.
“My expectations for the state championships are to enjoy every moment of the weekend with the team,” Wysocki said of the Vikings, who bring six seniors and a junior to Hebron. “Sixty years of history, the hundred of runners who came before and an entire community will be supporting this team Saturday.”
• Centerville senior Ben Burkett’s goal is a photo finish, of sorts. Securing a top-20 finish and earning all-state honors gets his photo in the school’s hallway of fame.
“Placing at state would be really exciting for me,” Burkett said. “One of the things we have at our school is if you score at a state meet you get a plaque in the hallway of the high school. That would be something to last through the ages.”
• Oakwood freshman Grace Hartman and junior Elizabeth Vaughn finished 1-2 at the regional meet. Bellbrook’s trio of senior Minami Ford, sophomore Avarie Faulkner and senior Elise Kemper helped the Golden Eagles to the regional title and look for a podium finish at state.
• Fort Loramie has what coach Dennis Prenger calls the best 1-2 punch in D-III. Seniors Joe Ballas and Jake Rethman finished first and second at the regional meet after outlasting Arcanum senior Tanner Delk.
• Minster’s girls have won two straight D-III titles and have the individual defending champ with junior Emma Watcke. The Wildcats are ranked No. 1 in the state and favorites to stay there. They placed all seven runners among the top 22 at the Tiffin regional and won by 67 points.
• Bradford’s girls, led by senior Karmen Knepp, make their first trip to state in program history.